Christmas is here, and with it come decorations, shopping, lights, reunions, comings and goings of friends and family; also copious meals, champagne, sweets, Christmas carols blasted non stop from every shop … We humans cope with all that year after year as well as we can, but do we really know how our pets live these changes? What dangers are there for them? How can we make these holidays happy and safe for everyone — pets included?
1. The Stress of Christmastime
Every dog’s owner — not to mention cats — knows that their pets’ vision of the world is nothing like ours. It won’t be hard to understand, then, that Christmas is a stressful time for them because so many things are altered:
- the routines to which we have them accustomed: times and length of our dogs’ walks — even more important in the case of very active dogs
- the constant glow of lights, or the endless sound of carols in the street
- the presence of strangers at home, with whom they are not used to interact and, sometimes, don’t know how to behave. This is especially stressful for cats, who are territorial and less social, and therefore react badly to sudden changes.
A clear example of this is when children, thrilled with the dog or cat in the house, want to pet them at all costs, and are unable to read the signs of alarm they send out — thus exposing themselves to a scratch or a bite.
2. Alterations in Their Diet
It is usual during this time of year, in almost all homes, to eat too much and
have leftovers, so giving them to the pet is quite tempting.
The fact that we feast these days doesn’t mean that our pets have to feast too. If they don’t, we will prevent digestive problems such as engorgements, intolerances, or even allergies or other serious problems like poisonings or pancreatitis. Besides, sudden dietary changes can have bad effects on them.
Remember that many typical Christmas delicacies are poisonous for pets:
- grapes and raisins
- shellfish (especially for dalmatians, a breed prone to suffer severe renal problems due to accidental ingestions)
- xylitol (an industrial sweetener very dangerous for dogs)
- dry fruits
- onions, garlic, leeks or chives
Be Careful With Bones
Scrap bones can cause constipation, or even hemorrhagic diarrheas due to torn intestinal layers — especially with bones of birds and rabbits. This kind of bones are thin and they splinter easily, therefore they can do severe damage in the digestive tract. Its treatment requires surgery.
Also, an excessive consumption of fats — even occasionally — can lead to pancreatitis, which is very painful and puts the animal’s life at risk. It is highly advisable to give them only the kinds of bones pet stores sell for them, such as beef knee caps — always moderately.
3. Balls, Lights, Cables, and Garlands
All these things are especially tempting for children and pets.
What cat would refrain from trying to catch a sparkling crystal bulb hanging from the Christmas tree?
Or, what puppy wouldn’t chase a Christmas ball rolling away, and try to swallow it?
The list is long: garlands, ribbons, cables, lights, Nativity figurines — which are sometimes cutting, and often can be swallowed. Christmas lights, connected to cables and plugs, deserve special attention, as they are tempting play ropes both for dogs and cats and, so the risk of electrocution is not negligible.
To make sure our holidays are happy ones, unstressful, without tribulations or visits to our vet’s emergency room, here are a few recommendations:
- Do not alter their diet: watch out that nobody gives them extra food — especially ours, and even less food that is poisonous for them. Excesses affect pets more than us — more so if they consume too much fat.
- Do not to put fragile adornments, or with sharp edges, within their reach: they can mistake them for toys, and hurt themselves.
- Protect cables, power strips and plugs so they don’t lick or nibble them: an unprotected cable can be peeled very easily with the teeth; besides, saliva and pee are electricity conductors. The cable of the Christmas lights on the tree is a danger!
- Minimize the stress, and favor the coexistence between pets and humans, taking a few basic measures:
- For dogs
- Try to alter their routines the least possible
- Take them to walk away from agglomerations, loud noise, and Christmas lights
- When you have guests at home, dedicate them a little more time, give them a good walk so that they are relaxed when the guests start coming in
- You who know your pet, tell the children if he likes to be caressed or not, and how. It’s important that you make them understand what are the signs that your pet is getting fed up, and when they must stop teasing them. Never leave kids and pets alone; this way you will prevent hassle between them
- Prepare a safety area where they can take refuge if they want to get away from all the commotion: place their bed, trough, and water in a separate room where they are used to stay, and leave them a tenuous light on
- Ask your veterinarian now what measures you can take if your dog gets too stressed during this time of year. They will explain the options available, such as pheromones collars, or even sedatives
- For cats
- Try to alter their routines the least possible
- Prepare in advance: places pheromones diffusers a few days before the holidays. Speaks with your vet: they will explain the options available
- Prepare a safety area where they can take refuge if they want to get away from all the commotion: place there their bed, food, water, and litter box so they don’t have to cross the critical area where you are celebrating
- Tell to your guests that a cat is not a dog, and that they don’t like others taking the initiative. If they don’t want to show up where you are assembled, don’t force it. Hidden they feel better, and this is their way of spending the holidays … after all, not everybody likes the nougat!
- For dogs
If despite all precautions, an accident happens, don’t hesitate to call an emergencies vet. Specify exactly what’s happened and when, the species, breed, sex and age of your pet, and if there is a previous condition. Follow their advices. They will tell you what is better in every case.
Happy feline and canine Christmas!